We here at Prodigies are heartbroken by the events of the last two weeks and we stand with our Black brothers and sisters in support of #BlackLivesMatter.
As a white male founder with a mostly white staff, I recognize that I have a lot to learning, personal growth and work to do. And not just over the next few months and years, but more likely, over the rest of my life.
It's not easy trying to accept that we, meaning privileged white folks like myself, are part of the problem. But even if our country's racist history isn't my fault specifically, it certainly becomes my fault if I don't do something to make it better.
In trying to appreciate how pervasive racism is in America, I keep coming back to this section of an opinion article by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for it's simple yet powerful metaphor...
"Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands."
I've spent the last week, like many of us have, trying to let in that light so I can learn to see what's been there all along.
It's resulted in hard personal conversations with close family members, fiery exchanges on social media and an overall tension in our multi-generational home.
But as hard as those conversations are, they happen for a few minutes here or there. Then they end, and I can, for the most part, go back to my life per usual.
For Black people, the struggle of racism isn't an uncomfortable conversation every now and then -- it's a reality of everyday existence.
So while I'll never claim to understand that reality first-hand, I am here, I am listening and I am ready to do my part to build an anti-racist world.
So in trying to take the first steps toward helping our community on the path to a more fair, more loving and more culturally responsible musical world, here's what we're doing to support #BlackLivesMatter:
1. We're Dedicating the Next Eight Weeks of #SheetMusicSundays to Black Composers
In hopes of better educating ourselves, we're dedicating the next eight #SheetMusicSundays to black composers.
While the music ed world has been striving to make a culturally responsible curriculum by not teaching songs like "I've Been Working on the Railroad," we still put a ton of emphasis on the white male composers of the world.
And while we do have more Beethoven & Mozart songs coming your way, we've already shifted our focus toward arranging more songs that reflect the diverse students and families using Prodigies.
So far, we've posted 2 new arrangements by Black composers, and you can download free sheet music for "Philadelphia Grey's Quickstep" and "Shosholoza" on our website here.
We encourage you to print them out and sing them with your family, friends and students!!
Shosholoza is a personal favorite of mine (specifically this version from Lady Smith Black Mambazo's "Long Walk to Freedom").
2. We've Donated to Campaign Zero
We've made a donation to Campaign Zero, a group dedicated to helping end police violence in America.
Now, to be clear, this isn't about criticizing all cops--my brother-in-law is a state trooper and we know how hard he works and how scary things are for him and his family right now and every day.
That said, not all police officers hold themselves to the same standard. Our country has a deep and systemic problem with race and police violence (especially when you compare it to other developed nations).
Campaign Zero is working to ensure safety measures and adequate training for all police officers.
In listening to black activists and our black friends, we feel like this is the best contribution we can make right now.
We encourage everyone to consider checking them out here.
3. We've Paused All Digital Ads
Early Tuesday morning (June 2nd), we turned off all of our Facebook & Google Ads out of respect for our community. We all need time to process what's going on and learn how to engage.
This may seem like a weird thing to prioritize, but digital real estate is expensive, and with less brands advertising right now, hopefully more organic conversation can happen in support of Black Lives Matter.
Our working plan is to probably resume advertising in the latter part of June. We have some epic announcements to share with everyone, but now is the time for action and support of Black Americans.
4. We're Formalizing and Scaling our Scholarship Application Process for Title 1 Schools & Low Income Families
Next week, we're going to be introducing a Scholarship program for ProdigiesMusic.com.
We've always tried to help underserved families and schools, but it's usually been sort of an informal process when it happens.
Our new Scholarship application will formalize the process a bit and make it easier for families and schools with a serious need to get financial assistance in implementing Prodigies. We're also going to be more deliberate about approaching underserved communities as opposed to waiting for them to find us.
To be clear, we've been working with Title I Schools for years to implement low cost solutions, but the formalized Scholarship process will extend to non-Title 1 folks as well.
We're working on the details now and we'll be releasing more details late next week.
5. We're Building Prodigies 5.0 to Meet the Challenges of Inner City Schools & Distance Learning
As for our own platform and products, we've been building the next version of Prodigies, Prodigies 5.0, to meet the challenges faced by inner city schools, as well as to meet the challenges imposed by distance learning.
We'll have details on Prodigies 5.0 later this month, but it will include brand new student feedback features, classroom leaderboards, Google Classroom integration, and a whole host of tools that will make it easier for students to get a music education from home.
We're also working with more scalable tech in hopes of being able to bring in more students and teachers at a lower cost to us and them.
6. We're Learning As a Family
As a family, we are diving into as many anti-racism resources as we can find. A few resources that we've found helpful are this Social Justice Resource Round Up, the site Conscious Kid, and the classroom work of Jane Elliot.
On a more personal level, we've been engaging in tense conversations with members of our extended family in hopes of being advocates for the Black community, not just over email and social media, but at the dinner table as well.
If you'd like to continue this conversation or have any resources that you'd like to share with our community, we invite you to reply to this email or share them directly on our Prodigies Music Lessons Facebook page.
Thank you for being a part of the Prodigies family. We're so grateful to have you as part of our community; it's your support that makes all of our work possible.